Is it Constitutional to Legislate Morality?

Declaration of Independence

Declaration of Independence (Photo credit: Matt Ortega)

The Declaration of Independence is extremely insightful as to the state of mind of our Founding Fathers when they later created our Constitution and the early Bill of Rights Amendments.  The key phrase that best capture the spirit of this document and the state of mind of the 2nd Continental Congress is:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

The key phrases are all men are created equal, endowed… with certain unalienable Rights, and Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.  There were no mincing of words.  This meant that Everyone has the Equal Right to Freely pursue their Dreams and aspirations unrestricted by laws meant only to fulfill the dreams and aspirations of a specific group of people.  This is such a wonderful idea, a new nation built upon the principles to freely have aspirations and pursue dreams.

The constitutionality of legislating morality is a legal issue, not an ethical one.  The Pilgrims came to the American colonies to escape religious persecution in England.  A century and a half later these colonies rebelled against unjust British laws and taxes and established a government and Constitution which righted many of the wrongs perceived from their experiences under British rule.  They guaranteed equality and free expression for all which the British often denied them.  They guaranteed freedom of religion which the Pilgrims were denied in England.  They made sure that the new government would be free of religious control unlike England where King George III was head of their church.

They very carefully crafted a government of Laws equally divided in power between three branches of government, unlike British rule where a single man, the King, had close to Godlike powers.  They established a President who would have limited powers to represent the government and enforce laws, a legislature represented by each state to make laws and a highest Court of the nation to decide if laws were constitutional.  Obviously much thought had gone into this new government so that citizens would be protected against abuses from a top-heavy government as had happened under British rule.  In most fundamental respects the new United States government was the very opposite of the British government at that time.  The new government was all about less absolute abusive power from the few in government and more about a representative government that protected the rights, and served the needs of its citizens.

Today we have forgotten some of the principles by which our Founding Fathers founded this nation.  One is the separation of church from state.  I resent morality being legislated into our laws by many fundamentalist Christians.  As I have said in other postings I have nothing against Christianity.  My beef is with the way some fundamentalist Christians sometimes force their religious moral beliefs and values upon others directly or indirectly through the legislation of laws, such as me, who may not agree.  They violate our rights to the free expression of our religious or nonreligious beliefs.

It is clear from the lessons of history that our Founding Fathers meant to keep church separate from the state, that one person’s Christian morality has no place in our laws.  They do not protect individual’s rights.  They do not protect the safety of citizens from others.  But they do violate our freedom of expression under the Constitution for those who disagree with these religious values.

I see multiple standards being woven into the fabric of our laws which do not represent universal values and seem unjust to impose on the general population.  If a given religious or social group wishes to establish their own moral standards let them regulate it among themselves and not force it upon the rest of the population.

I believe in the fair and rational enactment of laws to maintain order and uphold certain inalienable rights.  Religious groups should police morality among themselves.  There exists the Christian doctrine of free will to do good or evil, where everyone is accountable to God, not to man.  That means that Christians should not force people to give up their God-given free will but be good examples themselves for others to willingly follow.  God is the only judge of good and evil.  So there is a basis in Christian doctrine for leaving it up to each individual to be a good Christian or do otherwise.

Laws should protect the constitutional rights of All people against discrimination from other people as well as the physical safety of people from others.  This is a country where we should all have equal Rights to Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.  We celebrate Thank Giving every year to commemorate the religious freedom the Pilgrims celebrated over 300 years ago in this new land.

(See surprising background of Declaration of Independence:  THE DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE “DID YOU KNOW” FACT SHEET

This entry was posted in Constitution, Government, Morality Values, Social Issues and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Is it Constitutional to Legislate Morality?

  1. Pingback: Morality without Religion? | ouR Social Conscience

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